Blabberings on technology, the web, mobile world, India, books, events, communities and everything else (Chautauqua: An old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the participants)

Location: United States

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

LinknSurf press release

Folks, you can find the latest linknsurf press release here. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at support (at) linknsurf (dot) com, or leave a comment here. Happy LinknSurfing!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Of communities and the blogosphere

Alan Moore and Shel Israel talk about their recent conversation at Content 2.0 and with the BBC in their respective posts (click here for Shel and here for Alan). It's an interesting discussion where Alan and Shel take opposing sides in the discussion. Shel believes that companies cannot spawn communities of users while Alan does. Alan uses his tour de france example and Shel his Boeing 777 example. I couldn't listen to their entire conversation at Content 2.0, but I did listen to their BBC interview.

Personally, I don't see what the difference is. It's looking at the same coin from different sides. To me, what Shel calls a "community of people who fly cramped and uncomfortable in the back end of commercial planes" is giving rise to a new community of people "who like to take Boeing 777 for long flights when flying coach class". One may argue that the Boeing 777 community would not have emerged had the other community of disgruntled flyers not existed. Was the plane created to serve this community? Certainly. Was it obvious that a community of passionate 777 flyers may be created as a result? I think. So, is Boeing the cause of a 777 community by providing for the needs of the disgruntled community? Or is the disgruntled community itself the cause?

Now, looking at the flip side of the coin, at Alan's tour de france example. Would the newspaper have been able to publicize itself had a community of people who wanted to cycle across France not existed? Would it have been possible with just one cyclist? Did the newspaper editor realize what that one event he out together for publicty would amount to?

In some ways I agree with Shel...that a community with a need exists first. Then I agree with Alan...that the business that meets the need actually brings the people with need together and creates a community. So, maybe that's the only difference between what Alan and Shel have to say...

The way I see it is that Alan and Shel have different definitions for the term "community". In my mind, Shel refers to a set of people with the same interest/problem whether they are connected to each other because of the same interest/problem or not as a community. Alan on the other hand calls a set of people a community if their relationship exists because of the similarity of their interest/problem. For example, for Shel, a number of people wanting to cycle across France who could talk to each other is a community. On the other hand, for Alan, people connected together now because of the tour de France is a community created by the tour de france.

Here's another way of looking at it - is the community of Mac users, a Mac-loving community or a Windows-hating community? Shel probably says Windows-hating and Alan says Mac-lovers.

I think that both of them are communities at different stages in the evolution cycle. They're both a part of the system - one is the crest and the other the ebb. However, we won't be able to make a wave without both of them. The fact is that if a group of people with a common need exist (a community in Shel's terms), some business will meet it and in doing so create a group of people (a community in Alan's terms).

The thing to not forget though is that in a community, the members must be able to interact with each other. What the blogosphere has done is made it easier for people to interact - so it has widened these communities beyond what we ever imagined. Those pockets of people with similar interests are now connected with pockets across the world forming one large community. These people earlier scattered had no voice, but now that they can interact they have a voice that matters. In the long run, I simply think this makes things easier for marketeers because now you'll know where and how to reach your audience. The challenge is to create something good enough for your audience to want it and the best way is to get people in the audience to sell it.

However, that's in the long run...right now I believe that as much hype as we associate with Blogosphere, the number of people it influences is still small. Any opinions anyone?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Just some cliched observations from another entrepreneur

I've just come back from an extended break from LinknSurf and the Web 2.0 world - while it wasn't exactly a sabbatical, it did help me relax a little, focus on other things and think of some new things for LinknSurf. Besides LinknSurf, I also had some time to reflect on the startup scene in general and what I had learnt from my startup besides the obvious.

If you're in an emerging area in a consumer (not enterprise) market with almost no precedents, here are a couple of things that no one ever told you about a startup (or at least no one told me. And if someone did, I forgot!!!):

  • There are no discrete mistakes. Things happen in a continuum and it's HARD to isolate single things and deal with them
  • Actually, there are NO mistakes. The ones you've identified are basically conjectures. You THINK that that is where you went wrong and there will seldom be any way to verify it but your instinct
  • Startups operate in a series of experiments. With each little experiment, from the way the product looks to how you spread the word, you probably learn more of WHAT NOT TO DO in the next experiment than WHAT TO DO
  • The day you figure out WHAT TO DO, take a deep breath and savor the moment. The feeling won't last very long! But go ahead and DO IT! Not doing is the worst thing you can do.
  • The gap between identifying 'what is needed' and actually providing for it is really really small. It's so small that none of your big ideas are going to squeeze through it. Try the smaller ones first
  • All the experienced people you talk to offer opinions that are no different than yours unless you drive them to the details. It's the details that matter - that's where the devil lies. And then again, you realize that no one gives a damn about that neat little detail you implemented till it shows up unexpectedly one day and then you won't be able to wipe the grin off your face for at least that day
  • The most enriching experience is to see most of your ideas and opinions being challenged, ground to dust and thrown away and see new ones emerge out of that dust which MAY work. Like someone said, convicition is a luxury for those on the sidelines. You're on the frontlines - so stop fighting FOR your ideas, start fighting WITH them
  • MONEY MATTERS. Yeah, everyone told you that, but no one told you HOW MUCH it matters
  • Trust me, no one knows your product and market better than you. However, DOES IT MATTER? Passionate users are created when the USER USES THE PRODUCT BETTER THAN YOU
  • Sometimes, things work out for no reason at all, just the way they don't sometimes

Well, I guess that's a pretty cliched list. Any one else have any other observations or opinions? More on LinknSurf and Wirkle in my next post.